The HINDU Notes – 1st July 2017(Daily News Paper Analysis)
At stroke of midnight, India gets a ‘good and simple tax’
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, implemented from 1 July 2017, as a ‘Good and Simple Tax’ and said its introduction was not just a tax or economic reform, but a social reform that would nudge people on the path to honesty and benefit the poor the most.
- Mr. Modi said the practice of giving outkachcha(informal) bills would become history as the GST presented an opportunity to stop black money and corruption, and give people a chance to do honest business.
- Calling the GST a simpler, modern and more transparent taxation system that will do away with 500 different taxes levied across the country’s 29 States and seven Union Territories, Mr. Modi said that it would end the spectre of tax terrorism and Inspector Raj that India’s businesses have had to endure for long.
- This, he said, would be an outcome of the technological backing for GST implementation, which would do away with grey areas and the resultant discretion the bureaucracy enjoyed over tax payers.
- “If Sardar Patel hadn’t unified the country’s 500 provinces after independence, what would the country have been like today? Just like that national integration, GST today will help integrate India’s economy,” the Prime Minister asserted.
- President Pranab Mukherjee, who as Finance Minister introduced the Constitutional Amendment Bill for enabling GST in 2011, said the tax is “no doubt a disruptive change,” but is similar to the introduction of the VAT (value-added tax) regime which met resistance initially.
- “There will be teething troubles, which we have to solve swiftly so that it doesn’t impact the growth of the economy. The GST Council, Centre and States should continuously improve and refine the GST in the same spirit that we have seen till now,” he said.
- Hours prior to the official launch, the GST Council chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slashed the tax rate on fertilizers from 12% to 5% and tractor parts from 28% to 18%, in a bid to make the new tax regime more farmer-friendly.
- Meanwhile, a last-ditch attempt by Jammu and Kashmir to pass the necessary legislation to enable a simultaneous rollout of GST with the rest of the country failed, as no consensus could be reached. A special session of the J&K Assembly will be held from July 4 to discuss the issue.
- The government’s think tank Niti Aayog sought to play down expectations of the economy growing faster due to the GST regime, with its member Bibek Debroy stressing that the new dispensation with multiple tax rates is ‘far from ideal’ and hopes of GDP growing by 1%-1.5% were pinned on an ‘ideal GST’, not an ‘imperfect one.’
Benefits of the GST system
- It subsumes all taxes into one.
- It also eases the complexity of getting yourself registered within the tax system.
- It has done away with levies on inter-State transactions – which means you are really opening up the market.
- It will hopefully remove the cascading of taxes which was endemic in the previous system.
Shortcomings in the GST system
- It is extremely complex because of the number of tax rates being levied and, second, because each State is being treated as a separate tax jurisdiction.If you have relatively few goods and services you are transacting in either as a buyer or a seller, then it works quite well. But if you are transacting in a large number of goods and services, then the system can get quite complex. The ones who will be directly affected will be things like retail, hotels and restaurants, construction. There the complexity will be large.
- The GST is almost uniquely Indian, in the sense that our version is a lot more complex than elsewhere both in terms of number of tax rates and jurisdictions. Most places will have at most three rates.
Now, a hard trek via Lipulekh
- The Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra through the Nathu La pass in Sikkim has been cancelled due to ongoing face-off between Indian and Chinese troops along the India-China border.
- China had declined permission for the first group of 50 pilgrims to proceed to Mount Kailash through the Nathu La pass.
- The pilgrims had to return to Gangtok after they were denied permission.
Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand
- Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand is another pass used by pilgrims to proceed to Mount Kailash.
Nathu La versus Lipulekh pass
- The route through the Nathu La pass that opened two years ago shortens the entire distance, making the pilgrimage less arduous.
- The Lipulekh route involves a treacherous trek of about 200 km, while the Nathu La route calls for trekking for only 35 km.
Border standoff: India warns of serious impact
- China’s actions at the Doko La (Doklam or Donglang) tri-junction in Sikkim between India, China and Bhutan have “serious security implications,” New Delhi warned, indicating that while talks have been ongoing between Indian and Chinese officials, there is no resolution yet to the standoff.
- “India is deeply concerned at the recent Chinese actions and has conveyed to the Chinese government that such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India,” said a government statement, the first since the tensions were made public earlier this week.
- Attempting to play down the situation, India said it remained committed to finding a “peaceful resolution through dialogue.”
- However, Beijing, which has been unusually shrill in its comments, issued its fifth statement in as many days, demanding that India withdraw troops as a “precondition for any meaningful dialogue.
- Revealing the series of events that have unfolded over the past fortnight, the government said on June 16, a PLA team carrying construction equipment crossed into Bhutanese territory at Doko La over the Zom Cheri ridge and tried to begin building a road. When Bhutanese soldiers protested, India claims the Chinese soldiers pushed them back to their posts.
- “In coordination with the Royal Government of Bhutan, Indian personnel, who were present at general area Doka La, approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo,” the government said, although it denied the Chinese claim that Indian troops had transgressed into Chinese territory in the process.
- Four days later, a border personnel meeting (BPM) was held at Nathu La and diplomats in Delhi and Beijing have been holding regular meetings with the respective foreign ministries in an effort to defuse the crisis.
- Bhutan and China have been similarly engaged.
- For Chinese troops to transgress over non-finalised borders in Sikkim and into Bhutanese territory is unprecedented, and is a violation of agreements with Bhutan from 1998 and 1999 as well as with India in 2012 to maintain the status quo, and causes special worries for the future. This is part of the India-China boundary that is considered “settled” between the two countries, and it was for this reason that China had opened out the motorable route for Indian pilgrims.
- While Indian and Chinese troops have faced off at the LAC in Chumar and Depsang in Ladakh earlier, the Doko La episode is the most significant such face-off.
Lost and found: the tale of two cities
- The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is looking to send robotic vehicles into the sea near Dwaraka, Gujarat, and Puhar, Tamil Nadu, to look for submerged structures that may point to evidence on the ancient cities.
- The programme, still a preliminary proposal, is expected to involve organisations such as the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai, and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa.
- NIOT has indigenously built vehicles capable of plumbing 5,000 metres underwater and the NIO has previous experience in marine archaeology.
- Along with historical interest, this is also to test several technologies such as sophisticated imaging technology, being able to map the ocean floor with sonar and being able to date old stones and recoverable implements using the latest techniques.
- Excavations at Dwaraka, a coastal town in Jamnagar district of Gujarat, have a long history.
- Nearly a decade ago, the Underwater Archaeology Wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) found copper coins and segments of granite structures.
- Mentioned in the Mahabharata as ‘Dvaraka’ or ‘Dvaravati,’ it is also linked to the god Krishna.
- Dwaraka, a port city, finds mention in ancient Greek texts from the 1st millennium and, according to legend, was a rich city that sank into the sea.
- Last year, divers, geologists and archaeologists with the NIO, working off the coast of Tamil Nadu, reportedly found stone remains suggestive of an ancient port and temples, which were reportedly buried about 30 feet into the sea.
- Tamil and Buddhist literature have references to Poompuhar, or Puhar, as being the port capital of the Chola dynasty.
- In October 2016, an expert committee of geologists, archaeologists and hydrologists said it had found evidence of the course of the Saraswati, a river mentioned in the Rig Veda and in Hindu mythology.
- This was a study commissioned by the Water Resources Ministry and led by Professor K.S. Valdiya of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.
- His report concluded that evidence from palaeochannels – remnants of defunct rivers – suggested that the Sarsuti-Markanda rivulets in Haryana were the water courses of the “eastern branch of a Himalayan river” and the Ghaggar-Patiali channels were the western branches.
NASA launches Rocket to produce Colourful Artificial Clouds
- The NASA has successfully launched Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket that created colourful artificial clouds visible in the skies of the US.
- The rocket was launched from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
- Salient Facts:
- The rocket during the 8-minute flight had released 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink into space.
- The canisters deployed blue-green and red vapour that formed artificial clouds visible in the skies of the United States from New York to North Carolina.
- The artificial clouds are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide.
- The vapour tracers will help in understanding the movement of the particles in the ionosphere.
- It will help to learn more about the movement of the air currents at that altitude.
- Ionosphere: The ionosphere is called so because it is ionised by solar radiation. It plays an important part in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere. Ionosphere stretches from 50 to 1,000 km and typically overlaps both the exosphere and the thermosphere. It has practical importance because it influences, for example, radio propagation on the Earth. It is also responsible for auroras.
Antarctica’s ice-free islands set to grow
If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t reduced, ice-free areas are expected to surge by as much as 17,000 square kilometres.
- Scattered within the vast frozen expanse of Antarctica are isolated ice-free nooks — nunataks (exposed mountain tops), scree slopes, cliffs, valleys and coastal oases — which cover less than 1% of the area, but support almost all of the continent’s biodiversity.
- But by the turn of the century these ice-free islands could grow by over 17,000 sq.km (a 25% increase) due to climate change, according to a paper published in Nature.
- Climate change will cause ice-free areas on Antarctica to increase by up to a quarter by 2100, threatening the diversity of the unique terrestrial plant and animal life that exists there, according to projections from the first study examining the question in detail.
- If emissions of greenhouse gasses are not reduced, projected warming and changes in snowfall will cause ice-free areas – which currently make up about 1% of Antarctica and are home to all of the continent’s terrestrial plants and animals – to increase by as much as 17,000 square kilometres.
- Since many of the ice-free areas on Antarctica are isolated from one another, they have acted like islands in the ocean, with the life existing in each one forming distinct groups. As those areas expand in the future, they will become closer to one another, with many coalescing, allowing the distinct groups to mix and potentially homogenise.
- If emissions begin to reduce from 2040, the expansion of the patches will be limited and as many as 4,000 distinct patches could remain.
- About 85% of the new ice-free areas will emerge in the Antarctic peninsula, which extends out into the Southern Ocean towards Chile. The Antarctic peninsula has experienced the most rapid warming in the southern hemisphere already and is predicted to see five metres of ice melt by 2100.
- As a result, the Antarctic peninsula will emerge as the region of Antarctica with the most ice-free area, overtaking the Transantarctic Mountains.
- As ice-free islands expand and coalesce, biodiversity could homogenise, less competitive species could go extinct and ecosystems destabilise from the spread of invasive species, which already pose a threat to native species, says the paper.
- Much life thrives in Antarctica’s ice-free pockets: small invertebrates (nematodes, springtails, and tardigrades) vascular plants, lichen, fungi, mosses and algae. They also serve as breeding ground for sea birds (including the Adelie penguins) and elephant seals.
US travel ban on six Muslim countries takes effect
Washington President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and travelers from six mainly Muslim countries came into effect late Thursday, after the Supreme Court allowed it following a five month battle with rights groups.
Significance of this move:
- The Trump administration says the ban is necessary to block terrorists from entering the country, but immigrant advocates charge that it illegally singles out Muslims.
- The 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will allow exceptions for people with “close family relationships” in the United States, which the government has defined narrowly, excluding grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles and others.